Diverse club sports opportunity continue to grow

Adrienne Burch

Old habits die hard.

This was the explanation Abhay Lidbe, a doctoral student in civil engineering, gave for why he chooses to spend his spare time playing cricket.

Lidbe is the treasurer of The University of Alabama club cricket team, one of 36 club teams at the Capstone. At first glance, cricket, along with sports like rugby and ultimate Frisbee, seem out of place in an environment like Alabama, where football reigns supreme. But for Lidbe and students like him, cricket is a sport close to home.

The UA Cricket Club was formed in 1977 and since has been an active sports club at the University. Lidbe said the present club cricket team is composed primarily of international students who grew up in a country where cricket is the primary sport.

“All the international students who are a part of the team have been playing cricket since their childhood,” Lidbe said. “It started when a few of these students were looking for recreation activities during weekends, and they got together and started playing cricket as they used to in their home country.”

Lidbe said even a few American students have shown interest in playing cricket because of its similarity to baseball.

“UACC provides a more formal and professional opportunity to play and practice cricket rather than keeping this as just a pastime activity,” Lidbe said.

The oldest club team at The University of Alabama is also a sport not too common in the state: rugby. The men’s club rugby team started in 1973 and has grown each year. Currently, it boasts almost 50 members.

Patrick Sequeira, president of the men’s club rugby team, said nearly 30 percent of the team’s players have played rugby prior to joining. The other 70 percent are completely new to the game. He said his freshman year there were only two members who had any previous rugby experience.

“It is popular among students who used to play contact sports in high school,” Sequeira said.

Sequeira attended high school in Houston, Texas, where he said he gave up soccer his junior year and joined his school’s rugby team.

“The sport of rugby is definitely growing across the country,” he said.

Sequeira said in Texas, the number of high school rugby teams grew from 12 to 30 in just four years, and rugby will actually become a featured sport in the next Olympic Games.

Another sport rapidly growing in popularity across the country and on campus is ultimate Frisbee. Brian Moore, president of the University’s own club ultimate team, said the popularity of the sport on campus has forced the team to hold tryouts the past couple of years. They also had to create an “A” and “B” team because of the influx in new members.

“Ultimate is an incredibly fun sport,” Moore said. “Never have I found a group of people more consistently open and friendly than amongst people who play ultimate.”

Darrell Hargreaves, assistant director for intramural and club sports, said he thinks the primary benefit for students playing club sports is that they continue to play a sport they love at a higher level of competition. With 36 different club teams and the opportunity to charter a new one, students are presented a wide range of options to fulfill their sporting needs.

“We have so many potential students that make their decision to attend the University of Alabama based on the sports clubs that are offered here,” Hargreaves said.